Facebook removes accounts linked to Awami League

A figurine is seen in front of the Facebook logo in this illustration. Reuters file photo

Facebook has removed scores of accounts and pages linked to Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”, including criticism of the opposition ahead of January elections, its owner Meta said Thursday.

The Awami League and its allies won almost every seat in the 7 January parliamentary elections, which the main opposition parties boycotted over fears it would be rigged.

Social media, notably Facebook, was flooded with disinformation in the runup to the election, mostly targeting the key opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Facebook said it took down “50 accounts and 98 pages for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behaviour” in the first quarter of the year.

Some of the pages were followed by millions of people.

“Some used names of existing news organisations in Bangladesh,” Meta said.

It said some purported to be opposition supporters while posting content critical of the opposition.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has ruled Bangladesh since 2009, was sworn in for a fourth successive term in January.

Her government has been accused of rigging elections and widespread human rights abuses  including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial murders and a brutal crackdown on the opposition.

Meta said the accounts and sites, which were primarily in Bengali, posted reports about Bangladesh and the elections, as well as “criticism of the BNP, allegations of BNP’s corruption and its role in preelection violence”, the report said.

At the same time, the sites offered “supportive commentary about the incumbent government”, it said.